The Devil’s Back by Marie Parsons
Review by Julie Carpenter
The Devil’s Back, by Marie Parsons is a beautifully crafted and moving novel, with a plot that flows like a river, pulling the reader along with it, and yet it still allows time for the intimate details that bring life to the characters. The book is centered on the marriage of thirty-seven year old Adam Moore and seventeen year old Laurie Castle and situates them amongst their kinfolk in the often harsh setting of Eastern Kentucky from 1900-1906.
The reader is submersed in a time and place where a marriage is not merely two people learning to come together but the joining together of larger families, a social function essential to the survival of the larger family group. The story narrates the history of Adam and Laurie, but it also examines the lives of their families, easily navigating the tricky waters of multiple viewpoints and granting each character a distinct and personal voice. Parsons’ writing makes the transitions between characters seamless and every voice seems necessary to this book. The family stories that shaped Adam and Laurie and provide the outlines of their life together are revealed slowly and organically, even as we follow the new marriage in the timeline of the book.
The language and culture of the mountains is woven seamlessly into the story and it provides the psychological background for understanding the characters. The characters deal with a landscape that can be unforgiving or abundant; their daily lives are difficult; they live in a world that is shaped by faith and tradition– from sex to the hanging of an outlaw. While these experiences might be foreign to a modern reader, the writer shapes the world so that each character’s perceptions become a lens through which we can understand their world and feel that we are a part of it for a few hours.
In fact, the characters are so beautifully drawn it’s difficult to leave them behind when the book is done. I hope we see more of Marie Parsons and of the Moore and Castle families.
From the jacket of the book:
A Kentuckian, born and bred, Marie Parsons knows the Appalachian region of which she writes quite well. She spent most of her college teaching career in her home state. A few years after retiring, she started writing short stories, and soon these stories morphed into a novel, The Devil's Back.
Find the book here: com/Devils-Back-Marie-Parsons/dp/1478742615/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1438375229&sr=1-1&keywords=the+devils+back